Ill. Catholic Charities Alleges Harassment for Asserting Rights

Catholic Charities told an appellate court on Wednesday that the state was intending to take away all foster children under their care in a hurry to punish them for appealing a court ruling.

The state Department of Children and Family Services was planning to transfer all foster children under the care of Catholic Charities in the Dioceses of Springfield, Joliet and Belleville to secular or other religious agencies by Nov. 30, head of Belleville’s Catholic Charities Gary Huelsmann told the Appellate Court for the Fourth Judicial District in an affidavit.

DCFS, however, agreed to allow Catholic Charities of the Peoria Diocese to operate “business as usual” until Jan. 31, 2012, since that diocese had declined to join the appeal, he stated.

Huelsmann’s affidavit was filed along with Catholic Charities’ reply to the oppositions of the DCFS and the American Civil Liberties Union to an earlier emergency motion, which would allow the Charities to continue foster care services. The injunction, filed on Oct. 7, asked the appellate court to stay the trial court’s order ruling against Catholic Charities and to prevent the state from taking away the foster children under their care during their appeal.

“I know of no child welfare-based reason why our foster children must be transitioned within approximately 45 days, in view of the fact that the foster children served by Peoria’s Catholic Charities are being prepared for transitioning over approximately 105 days, and Peoria will enjoy the status quo as it existed under their FY2011 contract with DCFS,” the affidavit states.

On Aug. 18, an Illinois Circuit Court judge upheld the state’s move to drop adoption and foster care service contracts with Catholic Charities, overlooking the group’s claims that their contracts were discontinued because of its religion-inspired policies.

In response to the emergency motion, the DCFS and the ACLU stated on Oct. 12 that the state was under no obligation to renew the contracts which expired June 30 and that Catholic Charities was seeking a stay order to continue to “discriminate against unmarried, cohabitating couples in the provision of foster care services.”

The sticking point between Catholic Charities and the DCFS is the Religious Freedom Protection and Civil Union Act, which came into effect in Illinois on June 1, granting homosexuals in civil unions the right to adopt or provide foster care. Ill. Gov. Pat Quinn believes Catholic Charities does not comply with the state’s civil unions law on account of refusing to place foster children in the homes of same-sex couples. But Catholic Charities insists that placing children with same-sex or cohabitating couples is against its religious doctrine.

Meanwhile, State Sen. Kyle McCarter, a Republican from Lebanon, last Wednesday filed a bill that would reinstate Catholic Charities’ foster care and adoption contracts. “I do believe that if it’s sent to the floor, there [are] enough votes to pass it in the House and the Senate,” McCarter was quoted as saying.

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